How a 14-Year-Old Kid Shot This Start-up into Stardom
The circumstances may differ, but for successful startups there’s always a tipping point. Sometimes this happens incrementally, and other times there’s one big rocket-ship-kind-of-event that makes a company take off.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Ansca Mobile is one that rapidly erupted and landed in a very sweet spot, thanks to a 14-year-old kid.
It all started with an app
Robert Nay, a junior high schooler from Spanish Fork, Utah, used Ansca’s mobile app development platform, Corona SDK, to make a wildly successful mobile game called Bubble Ball that back in January became the No. 1 free app in Apple’s iTunes store.
It was downloaded more than 10 million times so, naturally, it raised some eyebrows.
Soon Nay was in the national spotlight, with appearances on Good Morning America and ABC News.
This fortuitous milestone pushed Ansca Mobile onto center stage as well. Less than a year later the company says Corona is the world’s number one mobile app development platform used by everyone from teenagers like Nay, who works out of a public library, all the way up to huge brands such as Warner Brothers, Doritos, and Dannon Yogurt. In fact, this year the number of developers using Corona skyrocketed from 15,000 to more than 100,000.
Why big names are using Corona
Warner Brothers, for example, asked “Dolphin Tale” movie producer Noam Dromi to create an app to go along with the film. Dromi then approached Hollywood creative agency Trailer Park to see if they could come up with something in the next 10 weeks. Typically, a big agency like Trailer Park would have its own self-engineered platform for cranking out apps, which is how Electronic Arts and other entertainment companies do it. But lucky for Corona, Trailer Park was already a loyal customer.
“[The Dolphin Tale] app would have never come out without Corona SDK," said Dromi.
The beauty of Corona, says Ansca Mobile co-founder Carlos Icaza, is two-fold: It not only can help a developer create a mobile app and get it into an app store extremely quickly, it also can build for both iOS and Android platforms at the same time. He says a developer can get a prototype up and running in as little as 24 hours and have it in the Apple or Android app stores a few days later.
It’s also cheap. A yearly subscription is only $395, or $199 if a developer only wants to build to one platform.
Developers passionate about the platform
Corona has more than 100,000 registered users who have created more than 6,000 apps that have been downloaded more than 27 million times. Icaza says it even has about 200 future ambassadors—people who, in exchange for chotchkies, swag, and a small beer and pizza budget, go to the trouble of creating Corona meetups in cities around the world.
They do it because they’re passionate about Corona, and Corona feels likewise about them.
So much so, in fact, that the company actually hired one of them.
Jonathan Beebe, now an engineer with Ansca Mobile, ported a poorly performing game that he had created on a different framework into Corona and after only eight days had a completely revamped application. Shortly thereafter his game, called Tilt Monster, was chosen for a “Game of the Day” promotion by the popular social gaming platform OpenFeint, and ended up reaching #25 in the Apple App Store.
“Without Corona, my game would have remained slow and buggy, and would have lacked important features like social integration, OpenFeint leaderboards, and high performance graphics that it needed to achieve the level of success that it did,” Beebe says.
Success involves more than just PR
Good press—and talented 14-year-olds—had much to do with catapulting the company to success, but Icaza says without an exceptional product, it would have been all for naught.
“The proof is in the pudding,” says Icaza, who got his experience in mobile app development, along with co-founder Walter Luh, by running Adobe’s Flash Lite business for about a decade before launching Ansca Mobile in 2009.
The experience gave him a lot of street cred with developers and competitors alike. “We’ve been doing this for a number of years. We did it at Abobe and now we do it much better and faster than Adobe could ever even possibly do,” he says. At just 15 people, Ansca can react more nimbly than a huge enterprise. An office space with no walls or cubes helps, too.
“People can talk to me or Walter—they can say things and everybody has the right to challenge everybody else in here, whereas in a big corporation that’s not [the case].”